Saturday, August 7, 2010

Rose Factory (aka, my house, this whole last while)

Just making up some pretty ivory / white sugar roses for the M&Ms (aka The Ms) this weekend. Will post tutorials after the wedding?

...I should really say fondant roses - they take about three days to make because of the drying process. (You do NOT want to make it all at once. ;)

Roll, shape, dry. Roll, cut, cut again, soften, adhere (x5), prim, dry. Repeat the last part until you have a flower to your liking.

Edit: S'more....

Calla Lily (some call it Arum Lily??) is my favourite flower. Not sure about keeping the blue ones.
Baby blue roses. Toothpick came out of the first one fine. These ones? not a chance. Will have to warn others about the picks.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Minoas Taverna (Burnaby BC) do I blog again?

What format do I use again?

It's been a while! (to quote a certain blogger.)

It has been a while. Between personal losses to great personal gains, this year has been somewhat of a misfit rollercoaster, and I believe that I've come out a stronger person. I thank you for continuing to read and checking in (if you have - I am not going to be so vain to believe you checked in at all!). I also thank the fellow bloggers (You know who you are.) for encouraging us to blog again (or at sometimes, to eat again, by dropping off random baked and/or fried goods). How long will I stick around this time? Who knows?

I haven't written in so long, in fact, that I honestly can't remember how to dissect the meal. Perhaps the real reason for posting this entry is... Well, a week ago Elaine invited a couple of us out to Minoas Taverna, a Greek restaurant located at the very tip of Smith Avenue (read: right at Kingsway). We were joined by Sherman, Kim, and two SOs (or rather, as Sherman would probably put it, I was fortunate enough to be allowed to dine with them. *inside joke!*)

Minoas has been in operation for as long as I can remember. I used to live in the area and *always* asked my mother about that "weird house on the hill that always had Christmas lights on". It wasn't until I was older that, armed with an entertainment book coupon, I would visit with my brother or even M a good decade ago. From what I remember, the family that ran the restaurant used to live in the basement of the restaurant. They've since moved out, but still run the back and front of the house. Their son also does real estate and you'll find a posting (or five) of his in the lower landing of the restaurant.

We all shared an appetizer platter that came with pita, spanakopita, mushrooms, meat dolmathes, hummus, calamari, and tzatziki. While there was a lot of variety on the platter (and Minoas offered mushrooms, something other Greek restaurants do not), M and I felt that the platter was a little small. To put things in perspective, we shared the appetizer platter (same price) with another couple at Cristos a couple weeks ago, and could barely touch our entrees. I think me and M could polish off the appetizer platter pictured above, plus our entrees (well, M at least. I'm not a porker... ;p) Meanwhile, our fellow dining companions thought it was acceptable.

The dips (tzatziki and hummus) were garlicky, just the way we liked it, and the spanakopita was crisp but warm and flavourful. My favourites would have had to be the dolmathes and surprisingly, the mushrooms. They were served warm and were lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, and lemon.

It is always tricky dining with food bloggers. You hesitate to tell everyone what you're ordering, for fear of ordering the same thing. Then you play the game of ordering *last*, so that any last minute changes can be made, for the reason above.

That was exactly the case with M and Sherman (but you know. gotta keep the bromance, I just always get in the way.) They both ordered the roast lamb. It was a Tuesday, and the lamb was on special for $13.95. However, since we were using Entertainment book coupons, we weren't eligible for the "Tuesday special" price. Each entree came with a greek salad, carrots, half a potato, tzatziki and rice.

I ordered my usual lamb chops. Unfortunately, I wasn't asked how I'd like them done. I would have requested medium rare. The chops were done medium. To the restaurants credit, the lamb chops were mostly moist, but it erred on dry in some places. As I had some left over, I packed it home as usual, but knowing that it would be ultimately dry when reheated, piled on some tzatziki.

The (surprise) winner of the night would have had to be the moussaka that Kim ordered (although, please refer to his entry for his "but" to equalize the votes). The moussaka had bouts of potato, zucchini and eggplant but was still meaty. Actually, as we were reviewing our orders, I confessed that I'd wanted the moussaka, or even the vegetarian moussaka...but opted for the lamb chops to write about something different. :)

Elaine ordered the bifteka. This was another surprise as I'd rarely seen it as a stand-alone entree, only as an appetizer or as part of a platter. A trio of bifteka / meat patties comprised the entree and mostly everyone remarked how tender they were - usually the meatballs that I'd come across in Greek restaurants were dense and charred; these were moist, looser, and not as heavy.

Dinner came to about $23 per person, after discounts. For what we paid, it was fairly decent food. Service was prompt and the food arrived quickly. While value could be arguable, we also received another coupon with our meal (where did I put it now?). I'm just not as sure that I would go out of my way to visit, or that I would visit without a coupon.

After dinner, Mijune dropped by with a special sweet something for us - a jumbo donut from Texas! Apparently these donuts are in high demand and known they are for their slightly flakey, slightly sweet and original texture. Mijune was such a great spokesperson she even convinced a self-professed "old guy with gout" (just some random Minoas patron) to try a bite.

Many thanks to Elaine for remembering us and organizing this weekday dinner! Thank you to Mijune for the goodies. Thanks to Kim for the encouragement, and Thank you to Sherman and M for allowing me to sit in the corner and pretend that I was eating with them. ;)

Until next time!

Minoas Taverna
3823 Kingsway
Burnaby BC
P: 604-430-2545
Minoas Greek Taverna on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Oy Vay...Lets try that again, shall we?

Welcome to my "official" *i'm back!* post.

If you were paying attention (like Phyllis, or readers on facebook, or twitter followers), you may have noticed that I scheduled something to be posted this morning. It did, indeed, get posted. Alas, I was a day early...for a date that I had suggested (Thursday, August 5th). As I've posted on twitter - when you stop doing, you forget how. ;p

What have I been up to? Getting a kick ass job yo!

I work for a vegan analogue company in R&D (research and development / R to the D, mangz) and am very happy to do so. On the off day, I even get to play around with the product for recipe development (photos shown) and take photos for the website! It's like I'm getting paid to do what I do on this very blog!!!

Granted, I am not vegan, nor am I a supreme chef or even a good photographer. But I am getting paid to improve these skills! :) And that makes me very very happy.

Anyways, I hope to keep up the blogging. I was surprising family and friends alike when I showed up to dinners and meals without my camera. I guess they missed my blogging / food "paparazzi-ing" as well. (as in..."Jess...wheres your camera? Don't you have to take photos?"

Aside from work, I've also been busy with a series of cake decorating classes at the local Michael's craft store...they were having 50% off classes in the summer and so, along with HK, I took advantage of the discount (and subsequent weekly 40% off and 50% off coupons) to stock up on cake decorating supplies and other goodies.

So…I've covered work, and I've covered extracurricular. On top of that, I am also helping friends organize their small wedding. How small? ~30 person. “But Jess,” you must think, “its only 30 people, how much trouble can it be?” Well, since it is more intimate, the couple has chosen to put a lot of personal touches on the shindig. As in making their own food. As in making a lot of decorations. Oh, and we had a month notice. :D

Dude, I love them, but it had me really freaked out there for a while. Thankfully, they have taken the reins (like 95% taken the reins) but I’m sure in the next two weeks things will pop up. I am also making a series of “bouquet cupcakes” for the reception (putting my new-found cake deco skills to the test!) so I’ll be busy with that.

So that’s been my life in a nutshell. See you in two weeks?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Food Bloggers Lunch: Lions Den Cafe (Mount Pleasant, Vancouver BC)

There is a great community of food bloggers here in Vancouver. You can pose a query about the best restaurant for "x" entree, price category, or style of food in a neighbourhood and the community responds.

Lately, however, there have been a couple of "ESP" moments where the likeness are just a touch eerie. Take, for example, Delicias de Alicias, which Kim blogged about here. Foodosophy also blogged about it here; I had also seen Delicias de Alicias replace the prior Fish and Chip shop, and had mentioned to Kim that we should do a simultaneous food blogger dinner / posting around the same time that Kim had added the restaurant to Urbanspoon. I haven't had the chance to try it, but may do so in the near future.

There was also the instance of a small Japanese restaurant in Burnaby, which Sherman had also wanted to complete a post on; after he referenced Urbanspoon and saw my vote, he had suggested visiting together (for more photos and to compare notes). We should be doing that soon...

Finally, there was Lions Den Cafe. On Easter weekend, I had tried going to Ruby Dog's Art House (half a block from Lions Den Cafe) for art paper and some mixed media supplies; however they were closed. Turning around to head back towards the car, I realized that we were close to Le Faux Bourgeois as well as Lions Den Cafe. While Le Faux Bourgeois was also closed that afternoon, Mark and I had shared a small lunch at Lions Den Cafe. I wasn't prepared to eat and take photos, thus I hadn't even brought my camera. But...I still voted on Urbanspoon.

The very next day, Karl, Sherman, and Kim had been planning a lunch at, guess where-Lions Den Cafe. Elaine was also looking to do a group brunch at a restaurant that I had on my wishlist. Since we were already in the planning stages of Lions Den Cafe, we did that instead. Anyways. ESP. Food Bloggers have it. :)

The weather cooperated nicely that day; Lions Den Cafe is probably, at best, a 12-15 capacity eatery. However, as the sun came out the afternoon we congregated at Lions Den, Karl showed up early and snagged a beautiful spot outside.

It was a nice day, but there was still a little bit of a nip in the air! Sherman was still slightly sick (or was he getting sicker?) and showed up shortly, followed by Elaine and finally, Kim. Some remarks were made about the parking preferences (we had considered boxing someone in ourselves, but decided against it...), and the task of ordering got underway.

Karl took the liberty of going inside to order for us since the staff had left us to our own devices (M joked about how the phone number was listed on the sign outside specifically for us).

First up was the large order (3pcs) of jerk chicken. It came with an order of salad, and a side of rice and beans. This is actually what brought M and I back. We had tried it the previous weekend - it was flavourful, tender, and moist. Everyone mostly agreed (although Kim remained quiet...). Luckily, Karl had ordered two orders and thus no food bloggers were harmed in the makings of this post. The salad? The salad was not memorable.

We ordered one goat curry with roti. The previous visit M and I had, the owner, Ken had mentioned that the goat and oxtail stew were sold out. So there was the expectation that this was quite good; similarly, when the roti came, it looked enticing - it was moist and light, and filled with a yellow split pea mixture. Unfortunately, the roti was a little bland. We're not quite educated in Caribbean food, but in our opinion, the roti could have used some spice or even simply salt. The group did not really appreciate the goat curry - it even divided me and M. M thought it was disappointing and lacked flavour; I thought there were the fundamentals of a curry in there - I could taste the cardamom, mace and coriander, but it lacked any spiciness and could have used more body.

The oxtail stew lacked a little flavour as well. It was on the sweet side due to onions and butterbeans, but lacked spice. Eating it reminded me of the book Pigtails n' Breadfruit, by Anthony Joyette. It is a beautiful book including stories from the authors' upbringings and his families' recipes and cooking. In one sense, the oxtail stew conveyed the comfort of eating West Indies cuisine...but in another sense, the foodie in me expected something more. Perhaps another dish lost in translation?

For fun, we ordered the okonomiyaki to sample their "Japaribbean" food. It was a little doughy, and the mayo and okonomiyaki had all squirled into one. Absent was the usual garnishings of green onion and bonito flakes.

I was quite full after the whole meal. We all had different places to go after this late lunch, but I was reminded of how the owner Ken had a story to tell about his cafe. The name? It came from the name of the stuffed "Canadian born lion" pictured below.

The owners, Ken and Junko are especially nice. Ken explains to all newcomers the story of his cafe and how he keeps track of its ten years in operation - all first timers are encouraged to sign his guestbook - a calendar numbered with days in operation.

The menu was very reasonably priced. You can't argue with the price point; many of the meals are priced under $10. The locals seem to love his food and his laid back demeanor; it has been busy both times we have been there. Overall, we like Ken, his story telling, and like to root for the little guy.  But the menu can be a little bit of a hit and miss.

Click through for everyones' photos and commentary:
Karl (Thank you for organizing!)
Lions Den Cafe
651 East 15th Avenue (Fraser & Kingsway)
Vancouver BC
P: 604-873-4555
Lions Den Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 23, 2010

Menu Sampling: / Regional Tasting Lounge (Yaletown, Vancouver, BC)

As you may know, Dine Out Vancouver takes place from April 26 to May 6 this year at select restaurants throughout Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. The three course menus are tiered at $18, $28, and $38 price tags.

We were extended an invite by Danica at dvinewrites to sample some of / Regional Tasting Lounges' offerings and happily accepted.

Regional Tasting Lounge ( is the product of sommelier Alain Canuel, mixologist Matt Martin, and Chef Darryl Crumb. The premise behind their restaurant is that the menu is renewed every three months, and that with every change, different regions are featured. Currently they are serving up South American and local British Columbian flavours, and their $28 Dine Out menu reflects that. Their Dine Out menu may be found here and includes a number of options (including three vegetarian starters and a portobello main for vegetarians) from their smoked duck starter to a glazed salmon or bacon wrapped chicken breast.

We arrived fashionably late (some of my friends may change the "fashionably" to "annoyingly" but meh.) and were greated by Alain. Raul of hummingbird604 (who just celebrated his 4th blogoversary yesterday! Congratulations!) and Candice of Albach Photography were already present and sipping cocktails. One notable one was their house sangria. It was beautifully presented in a wine tumbler and had fresh blueberries, raspberries, blood oranges, and other citrus fruit in a serving. They pack a punch too (as I soon found out). Delicious and not cloying at all. As we chatted a bit, various servers offered us samples of their prawn ceviche, served atop a cilantro corn salsa, and hor d'oevre portions of their organic quinoa salad. has a great wine list - last summer we visited La Stella winery in Oliver and sampled some of their Vivace, a pinot grigio. I loved it and bought a bottle, so when the server rattled off a number of wines last night, I stopped her after she said "La Stella Pino Grigio". It is a light, crisp tasting white, summery and perfect for sipping. It paired well with the quinoa salad and the prawn ceviche / corn salsa.

By the time the trio of venison sliders made its way out, I was oblivious to food (sangria will do that to you) but M got his mitts one topped with blue cheese and bacon. It was a very bold option. M thought it was on the greasy side, I appreciated the creamy, full bodied blue cheese and the crisp salty bacon. Aside from the blue cheese version, there was one topped with foie gras and tomato, and one with sauteed mushroom and cheddar.

Overall, r.tls hospitality was great, and I love that their menu is refreshed seasonally. It gives diners a chance to expand their palates. The cocktail menu is as imaginative as their food menu; and I appreciate their extensive, ever changing wine list that is offered by the glass, as well as the by the flight.

The best part? We live by the skytrain. With the Canada Line Yaletown station mere steps away from, it makes it that much closer. Was it coincidence that we took the skytrain to on earth day? I think not.

I foresee us visiting this spring and summer...good food, great wine, delicious drinks. Oh, and the masterminds behind, easy on the eyes as well. ;) / Regional Tasting Lounge
1130 Mainland Street
Vancouver BC
P: 604-638-1550
R.TL on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Aka Tom Bo (Lonsdale, North Vancouver, BC)

We were running some errands in on the North Shore recently, and got the grumblies. Since M used to live along the Lonsdale corridor, we searched around looking for some familiar eats. Since it was a Sunday, a few of our "usual" joints were closed (ahem, Hachi Hana. And we're still sad that Okra has closed up. Does anyone know where Joe has gone?).

We drove around for a while before succumbing to hunger-rage (the point where we *almost* don't give what we eat, so long as we get to eat!) and deciding on Aka Tom-Bo on Lonsdale at 8th Street. The place used to be a "pizza and sushi" restaurant prior to the current management taking over, and to be honest, we've rarely had a dine-in meal at Aka Tom-Bo. There used to be a ridiculously inexpensive party platter, which if we picked up and paid in cash, would cost us a little over $18, and would feed both of us for a solid two meals, plus a light lunch for myself.

The good times have passed, however, and although the current management offered the same "grandfathered" deal to us for a while, we felt kind of bad and stopped ordering our special deal. It was time to try the dine-in experience!

A lot has changed from when we used to frequent Tom Bo. For one, pizza is no longer served! Another is that there are a seemingly endless selection of specialty rolls, many of which contain cream cheese. As we're not fans of cream cheese in sushi (kind of defeats the our purpose of eating sushi - we choose this fare when we feel like something "light"), we opted for an assorted sashimi and a lunch special which included a miso soup.

The miso soup was nothing special; although some people would say "WTF with the spoon in the miso soup!". :p Us, we just removed the soupspoon from the bowl and sipped from the bowl.

The assorted sashimi included 12 mouthwatering pieces, 2 each of salmon, tuna, saba, tako, tai and toro with a garnish of tobiko. All the fish were fresh and flavourful For $13.99, the assorted sashimi could be a little expensive to some, but the quality is what you are paying for here. And there is no "cheapie filler" of hokkigai here - just tako and yummy fresh fish. We would order this again.

The lunch special we ordered included three pieces of the ocean garden roll, and a whole dynamite roll and unagi-avocado roll. This plate, along with the miso soup came to $7.99. The ocean garden roll is essentially a California roll and salmon held within a thin sheath of carefully trimmed cucumber. It is delicious and refreshing.

The tempura prawn in the dynamite roll could have been a little hotter, but flavour-wise, satisfied our deep-fried food craving. The bbq eel and avocado roll was garnished with toasted sesame seeds. The roll didn't require a dunk in wasabi soy sauce; it was flavourful enough on its own.

Overall, we enjoyed dining in at Aka Tom-Bo. Since the chances of us getting take-out from there is close to nil as we live across the water, that's a good thing! A plus is that Aka Tom-Bo is open on Sundays whereas other places (like the beloved Hachi Hana) is closed. Ahhh, the North Shore (the city where merchants make too much money and close on Sundays), you gotta love it.

Aka Tom-Bo also offers rolls that are prepared with soy paper instead of nori, and a variety of combos and bento boxes. On weekdays, the restaurant is packed with business people and health care workers from the nearby offices and Lions Gate Hospital. With a deal or two and a large menu, Aka Tom Bo is sure to satisfy any appetite.

Aka Tom-Bo
751 Lonsdale Avenue
North Vancouver BC
P: 604-929-9999
Aka Tom-Bo on Urbanspoon
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